Rain doesn’t dampen enthusiasm at Taste of Joliet
By Brian Stanley email@example.com June 29, 2013 6:02PM
Updated: August 2, 2013 7:13AM
JOLIET — It was raining as the Taste of Joliet opened Saturday afternoon.
With the carnival shut down, visitors either were die-hard foodies or even bigger fans of Hunter Hayes.
“Weather is the biggest factor for attendance,” Joliet Park District Executive Director Dominic Egizio said from a golf cart at the center of the wet field.
The headlining musical act is probably the second, and REO Speedwagon had an unofficial crowd of 13,000 watching it Friday night. Music fans stretched from the stage to past the tents at midfield where 22 pallets of beer were sold.
After being rained out halfway through last year, the band announced it was pleased “to get through the whole set this time,” Egizio said. A mystery fan also grabbed a neat souvenir when singer Kevin Cronin threw the Blackhawks jersey he wore for the encore into the crowd.
A record 5,200 advance tickets had been sold for Hayes’ performance Saturday, which was scheduled for 9 p.m. but likely would start late because of the weather. Hayes won New Artist awards last year from the Country Music Association and the American Country Awards and received three Grammy nominations.
The moment the gates opened Saturday, Allie Skowron, and Emily Gonyon, both 17 of Arlington Heights and Mandy Ehlert, 17, of Mount Prospect, were setting up a blanket to be the lone picnickers on the field.
“We’re here for Hunter Hayes. We had our tickets since February,” Skowron said. The teens said they’d brought umbrellas and because the rain was beyond their control they wouldn’t let it dampen their enthusiasm for the show. The friends also were willing to share entrees from Brown’s Chicken — splitting chicken, sausage and Italian beef.
“We already know dinner will be something sweet and deep-fried,” Gonyon said.
The carnival rides were dried off about 1:30 p.m. as soundchecks began at the other end of the stadium. Stage technicians with a sense of humor checked levels by playing Jimi Hendix’s recording of “Rainy Day, Dream Away” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop The Rain.”
“Better raining now than later tonight,” said Brad Hansen, owner of Pizza For U.
A smaller afternoon crowd gave Hansen a chance to interact more with people passing his stand, including Gina Hanna, of Tinley Park.
The printed description of the beef pocket had made her curious, but Hansen’s enthusiasm sealed the deal.
“Oh, my God, that’s good,” Hanna said after the first bite. While leaning over her plate, Hanna said she’d been looking for something to do with her children today and Joliet was closer than Chicago.
“The kids will enjoy the rides when they get going and the typical carnival food,” she said.
Sara Clarke, of Plainfield, crossed the field with a beef sandwich and lemonade while her husband, Kyle, followed later with cheese fries and cheese nachos.
“I’ve had a big cheese craving. Yes,” said the woman who is 35 weeks pregnant.
The Clarkes came with Sara’s cousin, Aly Schaeffer, of Lockport, who was also attending for the first time.
“I needed to have the crab rangoon. It’s what I always get at Chinese restaurants,” Schaeffer said before taking another bite. “This is OK.”
The park district’s executive director will have to take her word for it.
“I’ve been running around. I didn’t eat one thing (Friday),” Egizio said.